KINGSTON — Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Hon. Olivia Grange, says more work needs to be done in educating young people about sexual and reproductive health.
Speaking at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Youth Conference held on December 8th at the University of the West Indies’ Mona campus, Miss Grange said it is important to empower young people to make healthy and wise decisions about sex, and to take responsibility for their actions, which can impact their development.
"It is imperative that the supporting systems and conditions are in place for them to receive the information," added.
She noted that Government has worked assiduously in that regard, particularly through the Ministry of Health’s National HIV/STI Control Programme.
She also informed that the National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD) has been working in all parishes to ensure that sexual and reproductive health training is conducted. Special focus is placed on strengthening the capacity of youth leaders by training them as peer educators.
"In this way, they are able to go back into their communities and share their knowledge and training with the other young people. The NCYD is also working to strengthen the youth empowerment officers through the (National) HIV/ STI programme, in targeting at-risk populations across parishes," Miss Grange said.
She noted however, that even as these actions are being undertaken, "we need to move away from treating sexual and reproductive health as a specific focus and to integrate it into the broader youth development thrust."
Deputy Director for the UNFPA’s Sub-Regional Office for the Caribbean, Dr. Hernando Agudelo, said that there is a growing need for sexual education and sexual reproductive health services to meet the needs of young people.
He noted that early sexual initiation with the resulting unwanted pregnancies and sexual transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, are major concerns.
Dr. Agudelo said evidence shows that when young people are equipped with accurate and relevant information and decision making, communication and critical thinking skills “they are better able to take advantage of educational and all opportunities that will impact their lifelong well-being."
The UNFPA Youth Conference is being held under the theme: ‘Investing in young people: promoting reproductive health, rights and responsibilities’.
The conference aims to increase knowledge and awareness of sexual reproductive health, rights and responsibilities among young people in Jamaica; sensitise young people about the various policies and frameworks that exist to support and promote the health, education, and development of adolescents and youth; and to share good practices and interventions that address the health and educational needs of vulnerable young people.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter